Spacefem (spacefem) wrote,

digital minimalism: the conclusion

I've survived my 30 days of "digital minimalism" and am back here to talk about it. I finished the book in much less time, so I can tell you about that too.

First the book. The idea is that us humans are highly evolved creatures with complicated brains. We need to learn, to interact, to make friends and forge relationships. Social media tries to appeal to those needs because the companies need to attract our eyeballs in order to make money from advertisements - but it's not the real thing. It's not REALLY learning, interacting, making friends or forging relationships. When we hit a "like" button we're using our millions of years of evolution to... well... hit a like button. It's like towing a ferrari with a donkey, says the book. I thought of the Jurassic park dinosaur eating the crane-delivered cow. It's convenient, it's food, but eventually the dinosaur needs something else.

Anyway, the point of Digital Minimalism is that we need to set aside the fake addictive blinky lights in order to make time for the real stuff - otherwise we're going downhill. The unnurtured brain becomes anxious, lonely, and unaccomplished.

Visiting your friend who just had a baby is a real interaction. Clicking "like" on her baby photo is not. Don't let it fool you.

Half the book is about the GOOD things you can do with your newfound leisure time that, studies/stories have shown, WILL make you a happier healthier person. Highlights:

1) Embrace solitude. Be alone with your thoughts. Enjoy prolonged minutes of quiet contemplation.

2) Build skills. Learn to play the guitar, weld a stair railing, change a spark plug, sew a quilt. A thing you can point to and say "I accomplished something!"

3) Connect with people. Invite friends over, join groups, visit family.

Sometimes technology HELPS us with these things. YouTube is a fantastic resource for learning new skills. Text messaging is a very easy way to ask your friend when you can come over to meet her new baby! But it needs to be intentional. We need it to work for us, to stand back and ask "is technology the best way to do this" and "is this technology contributing to my improvement as a human".

In this respect I remembered "Bowling Alone" - the book I read about how the decay of social capital in America was the reason we were increasingly depressed and having heart attacks. It was written just as the internet was getting bigger, but television was fighting for our eyeball attention, and the author observed that intention made a huge difference there. Two kinds:

1) People who turn on the TV occasionally to watch a show they know is on that they will enjoy.
2) People who turn on the TV because it's there and maybe it will feed them something, they're not sure what to watch just want to surf around.

That second group ends up watching a lot more TV, and they don't feel good about it, and they're not as healthy.

So intention becomes the key. With that understanding I am going to put a lot of my apps back on my phone. If my screentime inches up again, there are settings on my iphone to restrict that. I deleted facebook during this time, but I'm putting it back. I learned how to check my event calendar to see if there were actual interactions that would be good for me to get involved in, and I still say that facebook marketplace is a great way to save money and offload junk in your life. These are features I can pull on to make them work for me.

There was one thing I liked about my 30 day detox though, and that's that I started leaving my phone behind a lot more. I will keep doing this. A lot of the book was about setting aside time. Set a schedule when you will make yourself talk to people, work on your hobbies, or even mindlessly surf reddit - and stick to those times. If I just have the phone with me 24x7 it's easy to pick it up out of habit, not intention. Towards the end of my 30 days I was pretty good about leaving my phone if I was going to be back in an hour. Work meetings, shopping trips, dog walking... I know I'll be back to my phone in 45-60 minutes, so I can leave it in my bag or car. Nothing terrible happened, and every excursion was like a "mini detox". I figure if I need it for some emergency, somebody else can probably spot me, if not, well that will be another lj entry.

I wear clothes from clothing companies who want to sell me ALL THE CLOTHES, who try to convince me to buy the same shirt in every color, but I just need the one shirt. That's how I feel about social media now. Learn to take the minimum, take what you need, leave the rest, and realize that they're trying to sell you more but it's just that... a sales job. We see past it with money, we just aren't used to seeing past it with time and attention yet. We're getting there.
Tags: social media
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